IMMIGRATION, AGRIBUSINESS, & THE AMERICAN SMALL CITY — A Complex Dialogue!

https://slate.com/business/2017/12/latino-immigrants-and-meatpacking-in-midwestern-towns-like-fremont-nebraska.html

Henry Graber reports for Slate:

“FREMONT, Nebraska—The past few years in this Nebraska town of 26,000 have been unusually fraught. “My neighbor is on the City Council. His wife does not wave to me,” explained John Wiegert, as he made his way to a political meeting at the public library this summer. “I could be on fire in the front yard, and she wouldn’t put me out with a garden hose.” Doug Wittmann, who had organized the get-together, wore a blue polo branded with his organization, a Tea Party–influenced group called Win It Back. “We’re divided in this country; we’re divided in this community,” Wittmann told me. “And a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Twenty minutes later, the City Council president, Scott Schaller, wearily addressed the gathering: “It seems like we’ve disagreed on more issues lately, over the past year, than we’ve ever disagreed on.”

A few dozen Fremont residents were crowded into a library meeting room to discuss the Costco chicken plant, a $300 million facility that broke ground this summer and will, starting in 2019, slaughter and ship nearly 400,000 birds a day, all raised by local farmers on strict contracts. The meeting was about eminent domain, but the plant had come to stand for much more than that. Its arrival had split this quadrant of the state along lines that defy traditional two-party politics. In favor is the pro-growth business and political elite, immigration-friendly liberals, and a considerably quieter contingent of Latino residents. Opposed is a curious coalition of aging nativists, good-government advocates, environmentalists, and advocates for workers’ rights.

When complete, the Fremont plant will enable Costco to control poultry production all the way from fertilization to the spits upon which rotisserie chickens will glisten in the chain’s hundreds of locations in the Western United States. Costco says the economic impact of the Fremont plant, hatchery, and feed mill will be $1.2 billion each year, adding more than 1 percent to Nebraska’s gross domestic product. It will transform Fremont, where as many as 1,000 new workers could buy their groceries and educate their children, and the surrounding region, where hundreds of chicken barns will sprout in the fields like mushrooms after the rain.

The battle over the Costco plant has served as a coda for a long war over the way the meat business—Fremont’s Hormel hog plant is the nation’s largest producer of Spam—has changed the town’s identity through the arrival of Latino workers and their families, who now number about 4,000 here. Fremont is the only city in the country that has successfully made it illegal to rent a house to an unauthorized immigrant. The ordinance failed in the City Council in 2008, passed in a referendum in 2010, was overturned by a district court judge in 2012, and was upheld by a circuit court in 2013. Fremont reaffirmed the ordinance in a second referendum in 2014, with 60 percent of voters in favor. Years of raucous debate split families and neighbors, inspired acts of vandalism, brought media attention from far afield, and drove hundreds of Latino residents to leave. Since the second referendum, the city has held an uneasy peace over the ordinance, which goes largely unenforced. Many Latinos who left have returned. But the City Council still sets aside budget money for the possibility they will wind up back in court. A similar, ultimately overturned ordinance cost a Dallas suburb $6 million in legal fees.

The themes that characterized that saga in Fremont resonate across dozens of Midwestern towns—Austin, Minnesota; Storm Lake, Iowa; Garden City, Kansas—where just about the only job and population growth in the past two decades has come from the meatpacking industry and the immigrant workers it attracts. Meat has remained invulnerable to the outsourcing that devastated Rust Belt manufacturing towns. In fact, deregulation and factory farming have brought on a meat boom, bringing good news to towns like these: more young people, more downtown businesses, and related jobs in law, finance, and health care. This is especially visible in places like Schuyler, Nebraska, a small city west of Fremont that’s now more than 70 percent Hispanic. “People had to make a decision: Embrace change or get rid of it,” said Susan Jacobus, a Fremont city councilor who moved recently from Schuyler. “And if you get rid of it, it’s going to cost you your town.”

The Costco plant will bring tax dollars and local spending from hundreds of new arrivals. But it will also reshape the environment of eastern Nebraska, with fertilizer from 500 chicken barns dumping nitrates and phosphates into the water supply of cities downstream. And the work itself, if history is any guide, will be low-paying, dangerous, and difficult. There’s a reason native-born whites don’t work in meat plants anymore.

Supporters of the housing ordinance claimed to defend law and order—they had no problem with legal immigrants, they often said—but they also complained about hearing Spanish spoken in the supermarket and worried about the burden that even legal immigrants placed on Fremont’s schools and social services. They didn’t see why Fremont had to change. If the ordinance was their defiant rebuke to the plants, the packers, and the politicians, the approval of the Costco plant was the opposite: proof that their world was indeed changing beyond their control.

Three years after affirming what may be the most anti-immigrant housing law in the country, Fremont is welcoming a plant that is all but certain to bring hundreds more immigrant and refugee families to town. The city’s political class, which by and large opposed the ordinance, considers this a no-brainer. Unlike many rural communities, Fremont’s population has not declined, in part because it’s now 15 percent Latino. But it is older than the state and the country: Nearly 20 percent of the population is 65 and older. “There’s some people that, regardless of what you do, it’s change, and they don’t want change, period,” said Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman, who has helped approve the facility. “There’s nothing you can do to make them feel this is the right thing for Fremont.” But, he insists, there is no alternative. “You have to continue to grow, or you die.”

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Read the complete, much longer, article at the link.

Seems like the immigrants and the local folks have a lot in common. They all want:

  • A decent place to live;
  • Economic and educational opportunities;
  • A better future for their kids.

So, what’s preventing them from working together for a better future?

PWS

12-06-17

 

 

N. RAPPAPORT IN HUFFPOST: “Is Trump withdrawing Lady Liberty’s invitation to the poor, huddled masses yearning to be free?”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/597274e1e4b0545a5c31000

Nolan writes:

“In 1903, these lines were engraved on a plaque and placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

But should our immigration system be based on a desire to help immigrants from around the world? Or should it be based on our own national interests?

The main difference between legal and illegal immigration is that with legal immigration, the government decides which aliens will be allowed to come to the United States. Whereas, with illegal immigration, the aliens decide themselves whether they are going to come.

That distinction loses significance when the government does not base its immigration policy decisions on the country’s needs.

President Donald Trump believes that the current system for legal immigration does not meet our national interests.

. . . .

“Should we reject this approach and honor Lady Liberty’s invitation? That might have been possible when the plaque was put on the base of the Statute of Liberty more than a century ago, but it is no longer possible. Even if we limited the invitation to the huddled masses who have been driven from their countries by war, criminal violence, and persecution, there are too many of them.

And is it really wrong to base America’s immigration system on our own national interests instead of on a desire to help people from other countries? Trump and the Jordan Commission concluded not only that we should do what’s in our national interests, but that the current immigration system is hurting us.”

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Read Nolan’s complete article over at HuffPost at the above link!

Sorry, Nolan, but I think it’s all lots of White Nationalist bull. We wouldn’t even be having this debate if the immigrants were White Christians. It would be in the country’s best interests to legalize everyone who is here now and also to boost legal immigration limits for skilled, unskilled, and family to levels that more realistically match the market of supply and demand.  And, we can take many more refugees than we take now.

By having a bigger and more realistic legal immigration system, our need for all the wasteful and largely ineffective law enforcement we have now would be reduced. We could concentrate on folks who really don’t belong here. And, by having a real “line,” instead of the fake one we have now, we would increase the incentives for folks to wait their turn and come in an orderly manner.

Most economists who have looked at our situation are appalled at the so-called RAISE Act. One has only to look at who sponsors it to see the motives behind it.

I largely agree with the recent article in the Washington Post by Heather Long which demonstrates how harebrained the Trump and RAISE policies would be. However, I don’t agree with the idea of some interviewed in the article that family immigration should be cut to raise employment-based immigration. Family immigration does great things for America, and folks with family ties here have a “leg up” in getting started and making a difference.

Trump doesn’t care two hoots and a holler about America’s future. He’s out to 1) cement his position with the White Nationalists in his base, and 2) to loot the U.S. for his and his family’s benefit any way he can. Cotton and Purdue also are about cultural issues and white Nationalism, not what’s best for America’s future.

I reprint Heather Long’s article below in full:

Wonkblog

Cutting legal immigration 50 percent might be Trump’s worst economic idea

July 17

President Trump’s “to do” list still includes cutting legal immigration. Economists say that’s a “grave mistake.”

A Washington Post survey of 18 economists over the weekend found that 89 percent said it’s a terrible idea for Trump to curb immigration to the United States. Experts overwhelmingly predicted it would slow growth — the exact opposite of what Trump wants to do with “MAGAnomics.”

“Restricting immigration will only condemn us to chronically low rates of economic growth,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “It also increases the risk of the recession.”

Thomas Simons, senior economist at the Jefferies investment firm, called the idea “absolutely harmful to an economy with a population undergoing the demographic transformation.”

The bottom line is: The United States needs more workers. Growth happens when one of two things occurs: The economy gets more workers or the existing workers become more productive. At the moment, both of those factors are red flags. Productivity growth is sluggish, and, as Trump has pointed out many times, the percent of American adults who actually work — the labor-force participation rate — is hovering at the lowest levels since the 1970s.

A big part of the problem is the baby boomers are starting to retire. The United States needs more people to replace them, but the U.S. birthrate just hit a historic low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why many economists, demographers and business owners keep calling for more immigration, not less.

“Limiting immigration to the U.S. is a grave mistake,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The only way to meaningfully increase U.S. economic growth on a sustained basis anytime soon is to increase immigration.”

During the campaign, Zandi predicted that Trump’s protectionist stances on trade and immigration would lead to a “lengthy recession.” According to Zandi’s economic models, Trump’s worst policy was his plan to deport 11 million immigrants currently in the country illegally.

Now scaling back on legal immigration is a serious part of the policy discussion.

Congress and the White House are dealing with a slew of issues. Immigration appeared to be sidelined until a much-cited Politico report last week that top Trump aides are actively working with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to cut legal immigration by as much as 50 percent. It would be a revised version of the RAISE Act that the senators introduced in February and that would cut back on the number of refugees allowed in each year and make it much harder for anyone other than spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to immigrate.

Trump still sees action on immigration as a critical part of his agenda. He brought it up on his trip to France last week.

“What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan,” the president told reporters on his way to Paris. “But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”

If Trump can’t get the bigger immigration overhaul he wants, he’s likely to push for something like the RAISE Act. Trump says the United States needs to limit immigration, legal and illegal, to give workers at home a better chance. One of the proposals Cotton and Perdue are considering is slashing the number of legally issued green cards from 1 million a year to 500,000 over the next decade.

Trump portrays immigrants as scooping up American jobs. But the data appears to tell a different story.

U.S. unemployment is at 4.4 percent. In May, unemployment hit the lowest level since 2001, a milestone Trump celebrated. That implies there aren’t many people struggling to find work. At the same time, the United States has 5.7 million job openings, which is near a record high. It’s been that way for a year now. Business leaders with big and small firms say they can’t find enough workers. They are especially vocal about not being able to find enough people for really low-skilled, low-pay work and for really highly skilled jobs.

Take Bayard Winthrop. He is founder and chief executive of American Giant, a company that Slate said produces the “greatest hoodie ever made.” American Giant makes those masterpiece sweatshirts by using only U.S. workers, U.S. cotton and U.S. manufacturing. In other words, Winthrop is the living embodiment of the “Made in America” a movement Trump is trying to resurrect. Yet one of the biggest problems Winthrop faces is not enough American workers want to do the hard work of picking cotton.

“If you go through our supply chain and talk to a lot of the business that are ginning cotton, dyeing and finishing cotton, what you hear pretty universally is they have open job requests but few people actually want these entry-level, lower-wage jobs,” he said Monday in an interview with WAMU radio. His message to Trump is, “Make immigration much more accessible.”

Trump is already heeding the calls for more lower-skilled workers. His administration just bumped up visas for seasonal foreign workers by 15,000, a 45 percent increase from last year.

There’s little love among economists and business leaders for a 50 percent cut in immigration overall, but there is growing support for moving the United States to a more merit-based immigration system. The idea is to attract more of the immigrant workers that the country desperately needs. At the moment, only 15 percent of green cards are issued for employment reasons, according to Department of Homeland Security data.

“There is a case for adopting a Canada-style system of ‘points’ whereby preference is given to people with desired skills,” said Martin Barnes, chief economist at BCA Research in Montreal.

The vast majority of legal immigrants are entering the country because they are relatives of someone already in the United States. It’s known as “chain immigration,” and the RAISE Act wants to limit that substantially so only spouses and children could come with a visa holder, not more-extended relatives.

From an economics standpoint, the key is to get more workers with the desired skills into the country. It’s why the tech community is lobbying so hard for more H-1B visas.

Immigrants also tend to start more businesses. While start-up founders in Silicon Valley are glorified, the reality is, business formation in the United States is near a 40-year low. That worries Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust.

“Countries that get collectively older are granted fewer patents, start fewer small businesses and take fewer risks with capital,” Tannenbaum said. All of that hurts economic growth.

Tannenbaum is concerned not only that Trump will cut immigration in the future but also that the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and controversial travel ban are already encouraging the best young minds in the world to look elsewhere for their college educations and early careers.

“If smart kids get educated elsewhere, the U.S. will experience a talent drain that we will certainly come to regret,” Tannenbaum warned.”

PWS

07-21-17

 

WANTED: MORE IMMIGRANTS TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT! — Trump Administration’s “White Nationalism” Likely Road To National Disaster!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/opinion/sunday/to-be-great-again-america-needs-immigrants.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region®ion=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=0

Rushir Sharma writes in the NY Times Sunday Review:

“In short, the standard innovation theory of American exceptionalism is all about qualities that make each worker more productive. Today, nearly all the economic discussion about how to make America great again focuses on ways — like cutting red tape and taxes — to revive flagging productivity growth.

Though this discussion remains critically important, it plays down a big shift in the story. The underlying growth potential of any economy is shaped not only by productivity, or output per worker, but also by the number of workers entering the labor force. The growth of the labor force is in turn determined mainly by the number of native-born and immigrant working-age people. Over the last two decades, the United States’ advantage in productivity growth has narrowed sharply, while its population advantages, compared with both Europe and Japan, have essentially held steady.

What makes America great is, therefore, less about productivity than about population, less about Google and Stanford than about babies and immigrants.

The growing importance of the population race will be very hard for any political leader to fully digest. Every nation prefers to think of itself as productive in the sense of hard-working and smart, not just fertile. But population is where the real action is.

Comparing six of the leading developed countries — the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia and Britain — I found that not only has productivity growth been slowing across the board in recent decades, but also that the gaps in productivity growth among these rich nations are narrowing sharply. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, productivity was growing much faster in the United States than in Germany or Japan, but that advantage has largely disappeared in this decade.

The reasons for this convergence are complex, possibly having to do with the way production technology now spreads quickly across borders. But this trend spans the developed world, and it basically holds regardless of which two countries you compare, which should raise doubts about how any one country, including the United States, can regain a distinct economic advantage by focusing only on reviving productivity.

Which brings us back to babies and immigrants. Like productivity, population growth has been slowing worldwide in recent decades, the big difference being that the gaps among the rich nations are increasingly significant. In the 1960s the United States population growth rate averaged 1.2 percent, or 50 percent higher than Europe’s and about the same as Japan’s. By the late 1960s, population growth peaked worldwide because of the spread of birth control and other cultural shifts, but it has slowed much more gradually in the United States than in its rivals.

Since 2005, per capita gross domestic product has grown on average by 0.6 percent a year in the United States, exactly the same rate as in Japan and virtually the same rate as in the 19 nations of the eurozone. In other words, if it weren’t for the boost from babies and immigrants, the United States economy would look much like those supposed laggards, Europe and Japan.

Indeed, if the United States population had been growing as slowly as Japan’s over the last two decades, its share of the global economy would be just 15 percent, not the 25 percent it holds today.

Moreover, immigrants make a surprisingly big contribution to population growth. In the United States, immigrants have accounted for a third to nearly a half of population growth for decades. In other countries with Anglo-Saxon roots — Canada, Australia and Britain — immigrants have accounted for more than half of population growth over the past decade. Those economies have also been growing faster than their counterparts in the rest of Europe or Japan. But much of that advantage would have disappeared without their population advantage.

Politically, the irony of this moment is stark. Population growth is increasingly important as an economic force and is increasingly driven by immigration. Yet now along comes a new breed of nationalists, rising on the strength of their promises to limit immigration. And they have been especially successful in countries where anti-immigrant sentiment has run strong, including the United States and Britain.

. . . .

It would be unrealistic to imagine that hard economic logic will turn the anti-global, anti-foreign tide any time soon. So the likely result is that the United States and Britain will go ahead and limit immigration. To the extent they do — and their rivals do not — they will undermine their key economic edge, and cede much of the growth advantage they have enjoyed over Europe and Japan.”

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The “other people’s babies” crowd is driven by xenophobia and racism, not by any real desire for a great future for all Americans.

Meanwhile, tone-deaf Republicans, including Jeff Sessions, are calling for limits on legal immigration, without any credible factual or statistical basis to support their restrictionist agenda. Same goes for those who would limit family-based immigration in favor of some type of “point system” favoring highly skilled migrants.

The U.S. needs (and uses) migrant labor in all parts of the economy. If anything, migration, both legal and undocumented, at the “worker bee level” — farmworkers, construction  workers, food processors, child care workers, hospitality industry workers, janitors, and other service occupations — has been just as important to our growth and prosperity as a nation as have been scientists, researchers, professors, executives, star athletes, entertainers, and capitalists.

We need a comprehensive immigration reform package that not only legalizes those law-abiding immigrants already in  the workforce, but provides opportunities for significantly expanded legal immigration. Not only would this more realistic approach address our economic needs, but it also would be a better way to solve immigration enforcement issues than money spent on walls, detention, and more enforcement bureaucracy.

As the system more reasonably matches supply and demand, the pressure for migration outside the system decreases and the incentive for “getting in line” increases. Just good old capitalist theory applied to the oldest human phenomenon: migration.

PWS

05-07-17

Will Wilkinson In The WashPost: American Cities Are Much Better Places To Live & Work Than The “Trump Crowd” Will Admit — And They Outproduce “Red America” By Almost 2-1!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/17/why-does-donald-trump-demonize-cities/?utm_term=.f0beb0764db5

Will Wilkinson writes:

“But this is just to repeat that more and more of America’s dynamism and growth flow from the open city. It’s difficult to predict who will bear the downside burden of disruptive innovation — it could be Rust Belt autoworkers one day and educated, urban members of the elite mainstream media the next — which is why dynamic economies need robust safety nets to protect citizens from the risks of economic dislocation. The denizens of Trump country have borne too much of the disruption and too little of the benefit from innovation. But the redistribution-loving multicultural urban majority can’t be blamed for the inadequacy of the safety net when the party of rural whites has fought for decades to roll it back. Low-density America didn’t vote to be knocked on its heels by capitalist creative destruction, but it has voted time and again against softening the blow.

Political scientists say that countries where the middle class does not culturally identify with the working and lower classes tend to spend less on redistributive social programs. We’re more generous, as a rule, when we recognize ourselves in those who need help. You might argue that this just goes to show that diversity strains solidarity. Or you might argue that, because we need solidarity, we must learn to recognize America in other accents, other complexions, other kitchen aromas.

Honduran cooks in Chicago, Iranian engineers in Seattle, Chinese cardiologists in Atlanta, their children and grandchildren, all of them, are bedrock members of the American community. There is no “us” that excludes them. There is no American national identity apart from the dynamic hybrid culture we have always been creating together. America’s big cities accept this and grow healthier and more productive by the day, while the rest of the country does not accept this, and struggles.

In a multicultural country like ours, an inclusive national identity makes solidarity possible. An exclusive, nostalgic national identity acts like a cancer in the body politic, eating away at the bonds of affinity and cooperation that hold our interests together.

Bannon is right. A country is more than an economy. The United States is a nation with a culture and a purpose. That’s why Americans of every heritage and hue will fight to keep our cities sanctuaries of the American idea — of openness, tolerance and trade — until our country has been made safe for freedom again.”

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And, how have the cities and “urban elites” which support and help keep the rest of America afloat been rewarded?

PWS

03/20/17

 

NYT: Japan Finds Out (The Hard Way) How Limiting Immigration Limits Future Economic Growth

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/business/japan-immigrants-workers-trump.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Jonathan Soble writes in the NYT:

“Japan, on the other hand, long ago achieved what Mr. Trump has promised: It has very little illegal immigration and is officially closed to people seeking blue-collar work.

Now, though, its tough stance on immigration — legal and illegal — is causing problems. Many Japanese industries are suffering from severe labor shortages, which has helped put a brake on economic growth.

That is prompting Japan to question some fundamental assumptions about its labor needs. The debate is politically delicate, but changing realities on the ground — in Japan’s factories and fields — are forcing politicians to catch up. Japan’s total foreign-born labor force topped one million for the first time last year, according to the government, lifted in part by people entering the country on visas reserved for technical trainees.

That growth has also led to an increase in cases of worker abuse and fraud, labor activists say.”

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Yup.  When my parents went into a very “high end” retirement home in this area, I noticed that virtually all of the dedicated staff, from doctors and nurses down to the janitors, were recent immigrants. I never ran into a high school kid, when our kids were at that stage or later, who said he or she aspired to be an orderly, a janitor, or even a Certified Nursing Assistant. But, I don’t think most of our kids and grandkids want to take care of us to that degree, either. So, those of us who plan to live to a ripe old age had better hope that Trump’s upcoming “war on immigrant workers (legal and undocumented)” is less than fully successful. Or else, we’ll be emptying our own bedpans.

PWS

02/10/17